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Thomson businesswoman indicted on Medicare fraud charges

Augusta Chronicle - 3/13/2018

March 13--The owner of a Thomson-based medical equipment supply company has been named in a 54-count federal indictment that accuses her of conspiracy, health care fraud, identity theft and money laundering.

Detra Wiley Pate, owner of Southern Respiratory, is accused of defrauding Medicare, the federally funded health insurance program available for those older than 65 and certain disabled people. Pate's company has been a registered Medicare provider since 2011.

According to the indictment, a conspiracy began in January 2014 and continued until Jan. 26, 2017, in which Pate conspired with other unindicted and unnamed people to submit thousands of fraudulent claims to Medicare for reimbursement. The indictment contends the claims were for equipment that was not ordered by any physician, nor was the equipment medically necessary. The equipment also was never provided to patients, the indictment contends.

The alleged scheme was that the company would provide standard wheelchairs to Medicare patients but submit claims for extra heavy-duty wheelchairs, which are reimbursed at a higher rate, and accessories. The more expensive wheelchairs and accessories were not ordered by any physician in 33 incidents and were not provided, according to the indictment. In three other cases listed in the indictment, respiratory devices were billed to Medicare when no physician ordered them, they were not medically necessary, and no patient received the equipment.

The charges of aggravated identity theft allege that Pate used the identities of physicians in five incidents and did the same with the identities of three patients.

Pate is accused of nine counts of money laundering transactions over $10,000. During the first six months of 2015, according to the indictment, $290,000 was moved from the Southern Respiratory bank account to Pate's personal account.

The indictment was returned by a grand jury March 7. The crimes of health care fraud and money laundering are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and aggravated identity theft is punishable by two years in prison. Pate has not yet been scheduled for a court date.

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